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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dogs and Technology: Interesting Development

From the press release:

GUIDE DOGS AND TREKKER JOIN FORCES TO SHED NEW LIGHT
-NEW GPS SYSTEM FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE BLIND OR VISUALLY IMPAIRED-

Smithtown, NY August 7, 2006 – Imagine getting lost on a busy street. You panic until you see or recognize something familiar. For people who are blind or visually impaired getting lost and looking at signs to find their way back is no option. Fortunately, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc. recently partnered with Trekker, a lightweight orientation aid that uses a global positioning system (GPS) and digital maps to help a person who is blind or visually impaired find his or her way.

The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc. offers Trekker training to their graduates so they can explore new destinations and gain more independence.

“This new technology opens the door for people who are blind or have visual impairments,” said Wells B. Jones, CEO of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc. “It allows them to travel to unfamiliar places safely and independently. For graduates of the Guide Dog Foundation, they are getting first hand experience on how this new system works.”

Heidi Vandewinckel of East Northport, Long Island and a Guide Dog Foundation graduate has been trained on Trekker with her Guide Dog, Bruno. Working at Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, her job requires her to travel on business. With the help of Trekker, Heidi will know what street she is on and what type of intersection she is approaching in an unfamiliar city. More importantly, Trekker takes away the vulnerability of having to ask a stranger where she is.

At just 3.5” x 5.25” x 1,” Trekker is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Just like a GPS used in many cars today, Trekker can pinpoint the exact location of the user and direct them to their desired destination.

A Braille keypad is activated by default. The user enters in the desired location and a speaker will voice the directions. The speaker can be attached to a strap and worn around the user’s neck or as close as possible to his or her ears. The user will direct the commands from the speaker to their guide dog getting them safely to their destination.

“Trekker in no way replaces guide dogs,” said Mr. Jones. “It simply accompanies a trained guide dog enabling the user to go to unknown places. Specific Trekker training is needed.”

Since 1946, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind has provided guide dogs free of charge to people who are blind and are seeking enhanced mobility and independence. For more information or to learn more about how you can contribute to the Guide Dog Foundation, call the Development Office at 866.282.8045 or 631.930.9050 or visit www.guidedog.org.

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